It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Bill Parenteau. Bill was born in Central Falls, Rhode Island on December 11, 1959, the fourth of six children to the late William D. Parenteau, Jr. and the late Gerry M. Parenteau. Shortly after Bill was born the family moved to Warwick, Rhode Island, where Bill grew up. In his youth, Bill was an excellent athlete. He played football and golf but had the most passion for baseball, where he was an all-star in high school and college. As an athlete, his superior hand-eye coordination was matched only by his thorough knowledge of the rules and playbook.
Bill had a keen interest in history and was the first in his family to receive a university degree. He ventured northwards for his studies, earning his BA in history at the University of Maine at Farmington (1982). He continued on to graduate studies in Maine, earning an MA, also in history, at the University of Maine at Orono (1986). He worked briefly at Applebaum’s deli in New York City before returning to school for his PhD. He ventured further north to Fredericton, New Brunswick and entered the doctoral programme at the University of New Brunswick where he completed a PhD dissertation (1994) on the political economy and social history of the New Brunswick forest industries in the 1918 to 1939 period.
It was during this time in Fredericton when he met the love of his life, Helen Tai. Bill and Helen were married in 1990 and moved to Ottawa, where their beloved daughter Mia was born in 1995. In Ottawa, Bill went on to do a post-doctoral fellowship at Carleton University and expanded his research on environmental and Indigenous history. He wrote a history of the forest industry in New Brunswick for Parks Canada, worked as a consultant on native claims along with teaching courses at Carleton University.
Bill worked at the National Archives of Canada where he was hired as an archivist in 1998. In 2000 the family moved to Fredericton where Bill returned to the University of New Brunswick to take a position in the History Department as an assistant professor. He was promoted to associate professor in 2003 and full professor in 2009. He taught courses on Atlantic Canada and Canadian History, as well as on sport, natural resources, and the environment, and supervised more than twenty graduate theses.
Bill was an excellent writer who shared his skills with his students as well as his colleagues as editor of Acadiensis, the flagship journal of the history of the Atlantic Region, in 2003-2010. His own publications included twenty scholarly articles and book chapters as well as a co-edited book produced as a member of the research team for a Community-University Research Alliance on labour history in New Brunswick.
Bill was an advocate of social justice, gender equality, labor, and Indigenous rights. He prepared several research reports on Indigenous treaty rights and served as an expert witness for the First Nations on cases involving access to land and resources. Bill was an excellent public speaker and gave many conference papers and public presentations and was often featured in newspaper and radio interviews on regional history, Indigenous rights, natural resources, and the environment. As a faculty member, he served on many departmental and university committees. He was a member of the executive of the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers, chairing the Collective Bargaining Council in 2011-2015 and played a key role in organizing the strike in 2014. He remained active as a researcher after his formal retirement in 2020 and was appointed as an Honorary Research Professor. Bill was a generous professor, colleague, mentor, and leader who was well-loved at the university.
Bill was an excellent cook who reveled in hosting parties at his home for family and friends including many events for the History Department at UNB. His prowess at the barbeque is well known and enjoyed by many. He was a punk rocker and a lifelong Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots fan and enjoyed many a game with friends and family.
Bill is survived by wife, Helen Tai; daughter, Mia Parenteau; sister, Donna Boffi; brother, Michael Parenteau (Sheila); sister, Deborah Poitras (Stephen); brother, Mark Parenteau; sister, Kerry Pascetta (Marc); father-in-law, George Tai; brother-in-law, Sean Tai; sister-in-law, Vera Tai (Art Poon); and nieces, Erin Velino (Robert), Kelly Hornoff, Rachel Bailey (Kemar), Sophie Parenteau, Kristen Parenteau, Valerie Pascetta, Mars Parenteau, Emily Pascetta, Finn Poon, and Marin Poon.
Bill travelled the world with Helen and Mia. In his final journey, Bill fought a courageous battle with his girls Helen and Mia by his side. He succumbed to his illness while waiting for a transplant. We encourage everyone to sign their donor cards and discuss organ donation with their families.
The family would like to thank the nurses, doctors and other staff at the Doctor Everett Chalmers Hospital ICU in Fredericton, Halifax Infirmary 3IMCU, Halifax Victoria General ICU and the Saint John Regional Hospital ICU and 4CN. The care Bill received was wonderful.
A visitation will be held at McAdam’s Funeral Home on Thursday, October 19, 2023 from 4:00 – 7:00 pm. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Dunstan’s Catholic Church on Friday, October 20, 2023 at 11:00am, with interment to follow at the Forest Hill Cemetery. A recording of the service is available at the following link: https://vimeo.com/event/3798756